Powered by the memory of his late father, Paralympic gold medallist Mikey Jones is determined to be a role model figure for the younger British swimmers coming through.
Jones, who will be a figurehead at the upcoming World Para Swimming Championships in London in September, is one of 24 GB squad members looking for success at the event.
The British athlete told MM that he is enjoying getting to know some of the younger members of the team and is always there to give them advice.
“I’m always happy for them to approach me and try and give them various bits of advice whenever I can. I’d like to think of myself as a role model.”
For Mikey, his role models are his parents – his father passed away shortly before he won gold at Rio 2016 – and the swimmer is certain that he could not have achieved his success without their love and support.
“He [my dad] was a massive part of my swimming career – he was always there, watching every race, cheering me on.
“Mum has always been there for me and it’s really important to have that support. She’s made me buy tickets [for the Championships] already; I think she booked a hotel before I’d even qualified – she did the same thing for Rio.”
Confidence will be high for the British team after excellent qualifying times, Mikey especially, and the swimmer believes this demonstrates the strength of the squad.
“Every athlete on this team has earned the right to be there and I think every single one of them will be challenging for medals and I’m certain that we’ll have a great championships.”
Thanks for everyone involved in the swim gala yesterday @ParalympicsGB @graceharvey767 @MikeyJones180 Manley Park, Devine Mercy & Our Lady’s @OurLadysPri ….now get down and use the amazing new facilities at Moss side leisure centre! pic.twitter.com/Kas6U5aHBZ
— MCR Active Schools (@MCRActiveSchool) November 23, 2018
The British capital is staging the ninth edition of the Championships after the International Paralympic Committee’s decision to strip Malaysia of the right to host.
Despite such short notice, the 25-year-old thinks the event will be a success and London will be a great host.
“It should be a fantastic event. It’s great to have a home games and I’m sure we’ll get lots of support,” the Paralympian told MM.
“I’m sure it will be a sold-out event. They have great crowds there. They can really drive us on.
“I’m really, really excited to walk out to a home crowd; it’s something that I suppose I didn’t think I would get to experience in my career.
“It’s definitely not an easy task to host the World Championships when you think about all the things: access issues and stuff like that and all of the kind of infrastructure that has to go around it.
“It has to be planned almost years in advance and to do it at such short notice, I think, just shows how committed we are to sport in this country,” Mikey added.
60 COUNTRIES, 600 ATHLETES
Event organisers have set tickets prices starting at £1 for day sessions and £5 for evening sessions to ensure the event is accessible to all and to create an extraordinary atmosphere and support the British athletes.
Mikey feels hosting the Championships in London can have a positive impact on raising awareness of para sports.
“I think with it being London it will really raise the profile of para sports [and] para swimming.
“I think people will kind of recognise and see all of the kind of varying disabilities not just from the GB athletes, but I think there’s something like 60 countries, 600 athletes going to be there.
“It’s going to be such a wide range of disabilities and it will be great for more public awareness.
“The more we can get para sport, in general, kind of that additional coverage and raise awareness of it in general, the better.”
Although born in the south west of England, Mikey is based in Manchester and has been here four years.
Speaking about the city and his time here, Mikey has nothing but positive things to say.
“I absolutely love it. It’s brilliant. There’s so much going on.
“Every time I have a walk round, or drive round the city, I always find something different to do or somewhere new to kind of go out and eat in the evenings or something like that.
“There’s such a wide variety and the city is just expanding so much. It’s really good to see.”
The Paralympic gold medallist is eager to point out his belief that Manchester would be an ideal venue for holding parasport events.
“We have a good training facility and with all the sport across the city, you’ve got cycling [and] taekwondo up here, so I see no reason why Manchester couldn’t host a World Championship.
“The Taekwondo World Championships were up here and that was a phenomenal event with great support – Manchester would be an ideal place to host.”
Mikey has been training at the Manchester Aquatics Centre ahead of the Championships.
“Training is going really well at the moment. I’m doing quite a lot of longer distances to build up more fitness because [of] the kind of injuries that I’ve had.”
The athlete underwent shoulder surgery last year before he was selected as a wildcard for the European Championships where he won gold in the 400m Freestyle.
The swimmer won Paralympic Gold at Rio 2016 in the same event and is determined to replicate his success in Tokyo next year.
The upcoming meet in London is seen as a key qualifier for Tokyo 2020 and marks the second time Great Britain has staged the event following Glasgow in 2015.
“I’ve been focusing on Tokyo ever since Rio, in all honesty; I’ve been totally committed to that four-year cycle and, for me, the ultimate overall goal is to retain that Paralympic title.”
You can see Mikey Jones MBE compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, taking place from 9-15 September in at the London Aquatics Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Tickets start from £1 and are available at www.seetickets.com/go/2019worldparaswim
Make sure you get your tickets! Get to see some of the very best para swimmers in the world compete on home soil! It’ll be a fantastic event so don’t miss out!! #London2019 #ParaSwimming https://t.co/SkVmOLwSxm
— Mikey Jones MBE (@MikeyJones180) July 2, 2019